June 20, 2017 / 11:36 AM / a month ago

Hong Kong youths turn their backs on Chinese identity - survey

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Shoppers cross a street at the Causeway Bay shopping district in Hong Kong July 22, 2014.Bobby Yip/Files

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Only 3.1 percent of Hong Kong youths identify themselves as "Chinese" or "broadly Chinese", a historic low, as the former British colony prepares to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, a poll released on Tuesday suggests.

The Hong Kong University survey polled 120 youths between the ages of 18 and 29.

The Asian financial hub, which has been rocked by youth-led protests demanding democracy in recent years, has been governed under a "one country, two systems" agreement that guaranteed a high degree of autonomy after Britain handed sovereignty back to China on July 1, 1997.

When the regular half-yearly survey started in 1997, 31 percent of youths identified themselves as "Chinese in a broad sense", and 16 percent said they were "Chinese".

The latest results showed that 93.7 percent of youths see themselves broadly as a "Hong Kongers", compared to 68 percent in 1997.

In a wider survey that interviewed just above 1,000 people of all age groups, about 63 percent of respondents said they were broadly "Hong Kongers" while about 35 percent said they were broadly Chinese.

Those numbers are similar to the 1997 results.

Many Chinese officials have in recent months expressed concern over Hong Kong youths' reluctance to embrace a Chinese identity.

Among them, China's No 3 official, Zhang Dejiang, who also oversees Hong Kong affairs, stressed the need for strengthening national education.

Editing by Nick Macfie

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